Farming and food from two Upstate New York journalists

How good packaging is reducing childhood obesity

Kids eating fruit smoothies.

New York's health department is being lauded for reducing obesity among lower income children on the WIC program.  WIC is the acronym for Women, Infants and Children, and the program provides helps 125,000 mothers in New York who need help to provide food for their children.

New York was the first state to use new WIC food packaging, designed to promote healthier eating choices for children.  And a new study shows that it's working.  In a press release, State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah says:

"New York was the first state to implement the new WIC food package and is the first to report that changing the foods provided to children under the program helped to improve their eating behavior and achieve healthier weights. Changing WIC foods does change what children eat."

New York started using the new WIC food package in January 2009; mothers and their children starting receiving a more balanced group of foods.  The changes reflect federal dietary recommendations to consume less fat and sweetened beverages, and to eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables. The program also started including ways to incorporate simple physical activities into their lives.

In the study, researchers from Columbia University, Public Health Solutions, and the NYS Health Department compared the prevalence of early childhood obesity and related healthy behaviors among NY children enrolled in WIC before and after the new food packaging.

They found improvements in healthy eating behavior along with a continuing decline in obesity and overweight greater than the national trends. The study concluded that "WIC has enormous potential to positively influence nutrition and diet, both now and in the future."  It was published in the journal Obesity.

There's been a lot of talk this past year about improving the food served in schools.  But research suggests that kids aren't picking up bad eating habits at school: that happens at home.  It's nice to see that when parents and kids understand what's healthy for them to eat, it can make a difference in what they actually eat, and help them maintain a healthy weight.

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